November 17, 2021 | Institute for Science and International Security

The IAEA’s Iran NPT Safeguards Report – November 2021

November 17, 2021 | Institute for Science and International Security

The IAEA’s Iran NPT Safeguards Report – November 2021

Excerpt

The Director General remains deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at three undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known to the Agency. The Director General is increasingly concerned that even after more than two years the safeguards issues related to the four locations in Iran not declared to the Agency remain unresolved.

-International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael M. Grossi

This analysis summarizes and assesses information in the IAEA’s periodic safeguards report, NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the most recent of which was issued on November 17, 2021. The IAEA reports that Tehran continues to stonewall its investigation into Iran’s undeclared nuclear material and activities and has not cooperated regarding the agency’s detection of man-made uranium particles at three undeclared sites or answered questions about the use of nuclear material at a fourth site. In the latest report, the IAEA director-general underscores, “even after more than two years the safeguards issues related to the four locations in Iran not declared to the Agency remain unresolved.”

The IAEA also reports that Iran has physically harassed and attempted to intimidate agency inspectors upon entry to nuclear facilities. The Wall Street Journal reported in September that male security guards had harassed female IAEA inspectors on four to seven occasions. Iran cited new security procedures. Iran appears to have continued the practice, despite IAEA warnings that the information would be included in its NPT compliance report. Iran responded to the agency that “there is no ground or legal basis for reporting such matters to the Board of Governors.” The IAEA reports that it advised Iran that its security procedures violate the “Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the IAEA, to which Iran is a party, and that their implementation prevents Agency inspectors from effectively discharging their functions as provided for under the Safeguards Agreement.”

The IAEA Board of Governors will next meet from November 24 to 26. Since June 2020, the Board has not passed a new resolution regarding Iran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA, which would provide the IAEA with needed support to pursue Tehran’s compliance with its legal nonproliferation obligations. By withholding action, the Board appears overly concerned with re-starting talks aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) rather than demanding Iran redress fundamental NPT violations and non-compliance. It is unlikely that Iran will cooperate on these outstanding issues if it receives sanctions relief under the JCPOA.

The Board should pass a new resolution demanding Iran’s compliance and cooperation with the IAEA, including that Iran uphold its obligations regarding agency privileges and immunities during inspections. It should add a condition that if Tehran fails to cooperate, the Board will schedule a special board meeting to more fully redress Iran’s long running and egregious non-compliance with its NPT obligations.

During an October 2021 appearance in Washington, D.C., Director-General Grossi voiced agreement that censuring Iran at the upcoming board meeting would make sense. This is in line with the authors’ general observation that the IAEA Secretariat has been sounding warning bells in line with its practices as an impartial, technical international organization, but the Board has not responded in ways it has in the past.

Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow Andrea on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear